Workers, People and Leadership
When looking at the Social aspect of ESG, one important point of reference is history. Western Civilization is based on the Bible, and the Book of Exodus has many lessons. It tackles head-on the issue of slavery and fair treatment of others. This article seeks inspiration from the timeless of the ancient, which are so applicable today. While researching for this article, I started to explore the prevalence of Poverty today. Poverty is about insufficient money to meet basic needs, including food, clothing and shelter. 84% live on less than $30 per day – a poverty line broadly reflective of the lines adopted in high-income countries. Let this sink in – 84% of people worldwide live in poverty. This indeed is depressing, and what are we doing about this?
When looking at the Social aspect of ESG, one important point of reference is history. Western Civilization is based on the Bible, and the Book of Exodus has many lessons. It tackles head-on the issue of slavery and fair treatment of others. This article seeks inspiration from the timeless of the ancient, which are so applicable today.
While researching for this article, I started to explore the prevalence of Poverty today. Poverty is about insufficient money to meet basic needs, including food, clothing and shelter. 84% live on less than $30 per day – a poverty line broadly reflective of the lines adopted in high-income countries. Let this sink in – 84% of people worldwide live in poverty. This indeed is depressing, and what are we doing about this?
The book of Shemot (Exodus)
The Book of Shemot marks the transition from the Individual to the Nation. From Family building to National building. I heard an important question – Why is Egypt so prominent in the Jewish story? We are commanded to remember it daily; it is a feature in our prayers. Why is slavery, suffering and hardship such important ingredient? It would appear that God, led by Moses, rebelled against the prevalent culture at the time. It set a new standard of belief, a moral code. The Children of Israel were chosen on a mission to bring about this vision for a better world – One God, respect for parents, a day of rest and a moral code of fair treatment of others. Indeed, even today, the world is grappling with these Ideas. Hence, The UNSDGs and ESG.
The world it seems is in need of leaders. So, I will start off by sharing these teachings of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.
SEARCHING FOR A LEADER
And Moshe was shepherding the sheep of Yisro…(Sh’mos 3:1) Imagine if today we were looking for somebody to save the world. What kind of person what do we look for? We would want someone who looks very intelligent, handsome, and a good speaker. A really polished personality. But when G-d looks for a leader, this is not what He is looking for. When G-d wanted to find someone to take the Jews out of Egypt, He was looking for something else. Do you know why Moshe was chosen? The Medrash says (Sh’mos Rabbah 2:2) that says that Moshe was a shepherd. His father-in-law lived on Mount Sinai, and he used to take his father-in-law’s sheep out on the mountain to graze. One day a little sheep ran off. Moshe Rabbeinu started running after the sheep, calling it all kinds of sweet names and saying, “Please come back, please come back.” The sheep ran all the way up to the top of Mount Sinai. It found a tiny little lake and stopped to drink, and Moshe found it there. He waited until it finished drinking. He then took the sheep, put it over his shoulders, and he said to the sheep, “You poor little thing. You must be so tired after all that running.” Then Moshe looked fondly at the sheep and said, “My sweetest sheep, I wish we could talk to each other.” At that moment, G-d said to the angels, “If Moshe takes such good care of sheep, can you imagine how well he will take care of My children?” And that was the moment that G-d appeared to Moshe Rabbeinu at the burning bush. I bless you and me that we should always talk to each other and know that we are G-d’s children.
Parsha Shemot - Be Sensitive to the suffering of others
This week’s Parsha (reading) of Shemot starts of with this sentence. “These are the names with the names of Children of Israel, with Jacob, everyman in his Household” There are three parts to this simple sentence. Every Person has a name and is Important. With Jacob – we are a part of a family, a Nation with a history and sense of destiny. In his Household – The Home is a place of stability, support and love,
The Parsha then tells us that, slowly, we become Slaves. We are all enslaved in some way. Every Person has to get out of their personal Slavery. Slavery comes in many Forms. The Children of Israel were enslaved. Slavery occurred in the civilisations of old, and we all know a bit of the history of African Slaves. Even today, there Is Slavery.
An estimated 21 million to 45 million people are trapped in some form of slavery today. It’s sometimes called “Modern-Day Slavery” and sometimes “Human Trafficking." At all times, it is slavery at its core. Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to someone’s vulnerability in becoming a victim of modern slavery.
For More reading http://www.endslaverynow.org
A deeper look at Leadership. Slavery, Colonialism, and Economic imbalance
With all the talk of Climate Change, Poverty we need to have a closer look at the history of mankind and the global challenges of today.
שמות א׃יד Exodus 1:14 וימררו את־חייהם בעבדה קשה בחמר ובלבנים ובכל־עבדה בשדה את כל־עבדתם אשר־עבדו בהם בפרך׃ And they made their lives bitter with hard slavery, in mortar, and in brick, and in all kinds of service in the field; all their service, which they made them serve, was with rigor.
I heard a podcast from Rabbi Sacks z’l, and he was asked if he ever had “a crisis of Faith’). He immediately answered yes. I have had many crises of faith in Man. Indeed, when we look at history, this is so true.
Let’s look more at Slavery and its counterpart, Colonialism. Quoting Stephen Fern from Ark 2030 https://ark2030.org/ on LinkedIn “A comment on one of my posts this morning suggested that undeveloped countries had brought the climate crisis on themselves through uncontrolled population growth. Hmmm …. “Maybe looking at the history books would tell a different story. The ‘empire builders in Europe pillaged entire continents. Britain, France, Holland, Spain, and Portugal led the way. The word ‘commonwealth’ was perhaps the greatest misnomer in history as we plundered, raped, and pillaged our way around the world. There was no ‘common’ about it. Families across Europe still live lives of unimaginable privilege and luxury based upon their forefathers taking whatever lay before them. Even humans were treated as a commodity to be traded and exploited. It is unarguable that colonialism delivered some positive features of ‘organised society’ worldwide — not least a sense of law and order from structured government. But at what cost? Had we truly ‘shared’ the wealth, then perhaps these ‘undeveloped’ countries wouldn’t be undeveloped anymore. We would have invested in education, healthcare, and economic sustainability.” Indeed, there is still forced labour, modern slavery, and human trafficking.
At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. It means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people worldwide. 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children. Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction, or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors .
The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires organisations with an annual turnover of at least £36m to make a public statement on steps they are taking to identify and prevent modern slavery in their operations and supply chains. https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/modern-slavery/ This brings us to world efforts to combat climate change, and world poverty and embrace ESG.
One of the Key objectives of the S (Social )– ESG is to look at the treatment of workers. To learn more about ESG – you can look at my website https://upgradingesg.com
Especially, I want to focus on Gaps. The wealth of the top richest increased exponentially, while the minimum wage has hardly changed in the last decade, while inflation has eroded purchasing power. There are still some 2 billion living in extreme poverty around the world. Most of these people depend on agriculture. These are in underdeveloped countries. Poverty is about not having enough money to meet basic needs, including food, clothing and shelter. 47% of the world lives on less than $6.85 per day – a poverty line broadly reflective of the lines adopted in upper-middle-income countries. 84% live on less than $30 per day – a poverty line broadly reflective of the lines adopted in high income countries.
Let this sink in – 84% of people around the world live in poverty. This indeed is depressing, and what are we doing about this?
Without going into the extreme examples of poverty and what can be done about this, I want to write a few words about the average Joe or Jill and especially the younger generation. The minimum wage is not a living wage, especially in today’s world. Approximately 21 per cent of Israelis were found to be living under the poverty line — more than in countries such as Mexico, Turkey, and Chile. The OECD average is a poverty rate of 11 per cent. The ratio of house prices to Income is rising to make owning a house an impossibility. We are burdened by direct and indirect taxes and consistently struggling to balance our income and costs and our work-home balance and lifestyle. We then had Covid19. Covid19 taught us that things are temporary and we should not take anything for granted. It showed us the potential of a more spiritual, family-centric lifestyle. How many of us spend too many hours of the day making a living? and not enough on meaningful activities. So, while we strive to make a change on a personal level, there is a need for a change in global leadership. The Torah readings of Exodus deal with Freedom and Leadership. The solution to the problems of today requires leadership. What kind of leaders do we need to make the world a better place? What kind of policies do we need to make the world a better place?
Some of these concerns were indeed addressed by the two recent COP conferences, Cop 27 and Cop 25. I addressed some of the key pledges that were made - Investment and Finance into Smart Agriculture. Some key themes were funding for developing economies, climate-resilient smart agriculture, biodiversity and pesticide reduction. In my blog, I highlighted some of the challenges and some achievable solutions. https://upgradingesg.com/the-drive-and-need-for-finance-into-smart-agriculture